Epunchng - Most read newspaper in Nigeria 12th-Oct-2017 - Page 20

20 THURSDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2017 editorial E Buhari, act on Lawal, Oke now LECTED on an anti-corruption platform, President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent missteps are hobbling his own pet agenda. Fresh confirmation of this came at the weekend with anguished calls for decisive action on a probe report on corruption allegations against two top officials, Babachir Lawal and Ayo Oke, submitted to him. Buhari should act fast, flush both men out if they are culpable and hand over their cases to the anti-graft agencies. The Arewa Consultative Forum, Arewa Youth Forum and Itse Sagay, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, voiced the concerns of many Nigerians when they called on Buhari to take swift action on the report. Indeed, Buhari’s inaction is inexplicable. On August 23, after a three-month delay due to his illness, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who headed a three-man presidential probe committee, submitted its findings and recommendations to the President. Considering that the basic outlines of the two scandals are already in the public domain and had attracted much odium to the government, the delay in taking action is only causing further damage to the President’s reputation and harming the credibility of the government’s war on corruption. Public exasperation is acute as these appear to be open-and-shut cases of malfeasance. Lawal, the substantive Secretary to the Government of the Federation, had been named chair of the Presidential Initiative on the North-East, an ad hoc intervention to provide succour to the people of a region traumatised by years of Boko Haram terrorism and a counter-insurgency military occupation. As usual in Nigeria, however, the operation exploded in a scandal in 2016 as funds earmarked for the welfare of Internally Displaced Persons were allegedly misused. A subsequent Senate investigation found that PINE had awarded a N200 million “grass-cutting” consultancy contract – to clear invasive plant species at a site in Yobe State – to Global Vision Engineering Limited, a company in which Lawal had proprietary interest. According to a Senate committee chairman, Shehu Sani, the company was registered as an IT firm, but managed to get a grass clearing contract. After an initial bluster, Lawal’s defence was self- indicting: he admitted being part owner of the business, but said he had resigned his directorship in September 2016. 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